With the arrival of summer imminent, you can bet that legions of cyclists and power-walkers will soon be crowding our seawalls and urban pathways in a bid to get fit and enjoy the great outdoors. Politicians and planners, inspired by downtown Vancouver’s busy seaside stroll, are also hoping to duplicate that success in other parts of Metro Vancouver.
To that end, three municipalities on the North Shore, along with First Nations governments, have committed to the Spirit Trail — an ambitious bike and pedestrian route that will hug some of Burrard Inlet’s northern coastline and ultimately connect the communities of Deep Cove and Horseshoe Bay.
While it may not have the initial visibility of a new stretch of blacktop, or a hulking bridge, it is one of the smartest infrastructure projects to hit the North Shore in years.
Why? Because in car-obsessed North and West Vancouver, there are too few options for getting around by foot or two-wheeler. Besides, this route opens up some incredible waterfront to folks from across the region.
One of the earliest proponents of the Spirit Trail was City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto. His vision for the trail has translated into several impressive stretches of the circuit — including the Squamish Nation Waterfront Greenway near Lonsdale Quay. In addition, new work has begun on a hefty length of trail that will traverse the historic Moodyville neighbourhood.
But let’s not kid ourselves. This is still the North Shore we are talking about. And many of the locals are unsurprisingly out for blood in the wake of what Mussatto and others are promoting as progressive change.
One such critic is North Shore News columnist Trevor Lautens, whose journalistic prose can be as poetic as it is persuasive. The West Vancouver writer recently derided one trail construction site in an admittedly bucolic part of the district as “the greatest act of political-bureaucratic-commercial vandalism of its place and time.” Lautens certainly did not mince words after that initial grenade. “I suspect the Spirit Trail project is a hard-boiled money venture wrapped in a soothing outdoorsy package with pretty ribbons,” he wrote.
And I suspect Lautens will eventually have a change of heart — if only because this venture will inevitably win over the public as more of it is built. In the meantime, however, hard feelings — not hard bodies — will be the result of this ultimately worthwhile venture.
– Derek Moscato is a writer with a focus on urban issues, transportation, architecture and economics; firstname.lastname@example.org.